Act locally, inspire globally: Shaping the future of our planet through good corporate citizenship

Wednesday May 15, 2019 0 comments Tags: Dr. Isabel Yang, Advanced Energy

By Isabel Yang,

Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President

Advanced Energy

On Earth Day, April 22, people across the globe shared remarkable photos and reflections on social media platforms in honor of this year’s theme, “Protect Our Species.”yang-mug.fixed

Millions posted truly awe-inspiring images of nature and animals on Instagram while others tweeted thoughtful sentiments, from a simple “#HappyEarthDay” to an emotional “We do not deserve you, we apologize.”

Thanks in large part to the Internet, there has likely never been a time in history that environmental awareness has been so acute, with concerned citizens around the world weighing in on a polarizing debate, climate change, which has been on the minds of scientists at least since 1988 when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established as part of the United Nations.

By that time, the U.S. was in a severe drought, thousands of disastrous man-made fires devastated the Amazon rain forest and a third of Yellowstone National Park was destroyed by fire ignited by lightning strikes. These events, though grim, would not only be pivotal in our understanding of the climate and the greenhouse effect but also the catalyst for change.

Corporations in particular are realizing how their behavior as good stewards of the environment or lack thereof can have a profound effect on their bottom line and the broader community.

In fact, a recent Nielsen report indicates that consumers are more apt to support or choose one brand over another based solely on its focus on sustainability. Another report from Cone Communications indicates that 86 percent of U.S. consumers expect companies to act on social and environmental issues.

As a global company born and raised in beautiful Colorado, Advanced Energy (AE) has long been committed to developing programs, processes and initiatives that not only enhance the wellbeing of the communities in which we work but also our employees and the businesses we serve.

We may specialize in power technologies, but our corporate citizenship and social responsibility extend beyond the products we make. Every year, we take stock, researching pressing social and environmental challenges, seeking creative solutions that make a positive contribution in some way or another.

For example, after learning from a U.S. Green Building Council survey how working in LEED-certified green buildings results in happier, healthier and more productive employees than those working in conventional and non-LEED buildings, we chose a LEED-certified property in Denver for a forthcoming additional company location.

Locally, we are among 190 businesses and organizations that have been supporting the City of Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan. Since 2015, we’ve also proudly participated in Fort Collins’ initiative ClimateWise, a free, voluntary program that offers five primary badges and one specialty badge that can be earned by companies demonstrating environmental achievement goals.

Each primary badge (Energy, Water, Waste, Transportation and Social Responsibility) embraces a mix of best management practices, actions, projects, innovative ideas, challenges and educational events. A business can earn an award level each year based on the total points achieved across all the badges.

This year, AE reached Platinum certification—the highest award available—by paying attention to big things and little things, like light bulbs. By swapping out nearly 700 florescent lights for LED lights in one building, we cut energy consumption over 70 percent.

Big things included foam packaging, which had been a major concern until we discovered Spring Back. A local mattress and box springs recycling company, it recycled hundreds of pounds of AE packaging waste into carpet padding while providing jobs to the disenfranchised.

Today, more than 75 percent of our total waste is now recycled throughout our global locations, including production facilities in Shenzhen, China and Littlehampton, UK. With the funds we receive, we pay for our landfill costs, which have been drastically reduced. We’re also working to support social responsibility among our employees worldwide, who commute to work from near and far.

Here in the U.S., the transportation sector—cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships and freight—produces nearly thirty percent of all U.S. global warming emissions, more than almost any other sector according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. So, when possible, we allow working from home when appropriate and encourage biking, providing bike racks, showers and lockers for our two-wheel commuters.

Plastic reduction is another critical issue we are currently trying to tackle at AE by creating awareness and asking employees to make informed decisions. According to a recent study from Science Advance, since the invention of plastic in 1907, the world has produced 8.3 billion metric tons of non-recycled plastic resulting in 6.3 billion metric tons of waste.

Some believe that fish may be outnumbered by plastic in the ocean in 2050 if we don’t act with a conscience. It’s that kind of information that can motivate people to do their part.

There are so many remarkable ways companies can and are working to turn the tide. It might be as simple as a “reduce and reuse” commitment to avoid using disposable cups, or as complex as converting cooling towers to chillers to reduce water consumption caused by evaporation.

Charitable contributions, too, are also an increasingly popular way to participate both indirectly and directly in issues that matter to a company as a whole or an individual. Through our charitable contribution committee, we collaborate with local communities to identify environment, education, and social programs in need of additional resources, offering each employee eight hours of paid time off to volunteer with a self-selected organization.

Some work with the homeless, others get involved in local clean-up projects and some contribute financially to help assist organizations beyond our Colorado borders, with an understanding that corporate citizenship must begin locally in order to expand globally. 

About the Author

Dr. Isabel Yang is chief technology officer and senior vice president of Advanced Energy, responsible for leading the execution of the company’s global technology vision and strategy. Prior to joining AE, Yang served as vice president of strategy and operations for IBM Research, where she focused on driving leading-edge innovations in such areas as artificial intelligence, healthcare solutions, and high-performance computing.

Prior to her strategy role, Yang spent several years in IBM’s Technology and Intellectual Property Licensing where she formulated strategy and execution for IP asset mining and licensing across broad technology areas including software, IT services, consumer electronics, computers and networking, semiconductors, electronic materials and healthcare and life sciences. Yang’s early years in IBM were spent in the Semiconductor Research and Development Center as part of the microelectronics division.

In addition to having over 20 years of industry experience, Yang holds multiple patents, has written extensively for more than 40 technical publications and was the recipient of the Paul Rappaport Best Paper Award at IEDM for her silicon on insulator active substrate work.

Yang completed all of her higher education at MIT, receiving a bachelor’s degree in material science, a master’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering, specializing in solid state physics and semiconductors.